Canada is a beautiful, multicultural country that spans 3.85 million square miles (err, 9.98 million square kilometers, actually) of space. While it isn’t the most densely populated, with lots of greenery and rural open spaces, it is actually the second-largest country by total area. Neighboring the United States, many parts of Canada are actually closer to American states than they are to other Canadian provinces (the Canadian version of a state). And every province within Canada, of which there are 10 (plus three territories), is uniquely different, much like in the U.S.
Canada is a developed country with the 16th-highest nominal per-capita income in the world, and is considered a hotbed for everything from oil and manufacturing, to high-tech skills and entertainment. (There’s a reason Canada is referred to as “Hollywood North.”) Yet despite this, many still carry some odd misconceptions about the country. Here are 10 of the most common ones, debunked.
10 It’s Always Cold
Yes, Canadians own shorts and tank tops, go swimming outside, and even enjoy weather in the high 80s. It just isn’t all year ‘round. With weather patterns similar to New York in cities like Toronto, Canada has four distinct seasons that are characterized by the appropriate weather. During the winter months, it can get bone-chillingly cold, true. But during the summer, and sometimes spring and fall, it’s breezy, hot, humid, and gorgeous outside.
Some provinces, in fact, rarely get snow while others get clobbered with 10 or more inches multiple times through the winter. It all depends. But anywhere you go, at least through July and August, the weather is sunny and time to break out the flip flops.
9 ‘Free’ Health Care
It is true that Canadians don’t have to pay to go see a family doctor or for a visit to the emergency room. If a woman gives birth, she doesn’t pay for that either, nor do you pay if you need surgery of some kind, a cast for a broken arm, or some stitches. But Canadians do actually pay via money that is deducted from their paycheques to go toward this public fund.
And depending on private or employee health plans, Canadians might also have to pay, in full or part, for things like prescription drugs, dental appointments and work, eyeglasses and eye doctor appointments, and other health care-related services.
8 Everyone Eats Poutine
Admittedly, poutine is awesome. It’s a dish that consists of French fries, cheese curds, and thick gravy. Sometimes it might have additional items like pulled pork or chicken, green peas, bacon, and other goodies.
Poutine is pretty commonly found within Canada, even served up at chain restaurants like Swiss Chalet and KFC. But it is an indulgent dish and not one you’d find on every menu, nor is it something every Canadian likes or eats all the time.
7 Canada Is Part Of The United States
No, Canada is not the 51st state in America. Canada is its own, completely independent country. And while there is a lot of trade that goes back and forth between the countries, and historically, Canada and the U.S. have had a good relationship as allies, Canada is not part of America. Well, technically North America. But not the United States of America.
Canada has its own government, Prime Minister (their version of a President), and is actually a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy in the Westminster traditional. So while the American President is not the Canadian president, the Queen is indeed their Queen. And yes, Canadians do buy their milk in bags, by the way (though cartons and bottles are an option, too).
6 Canadians All Say “Eh!” And “Aboot”
The first one might be correct, as many Canadians say this without even realizing it. It usually comes at the end of a question or sentence, such as “Oh my gosh, she did that, eh?” or “Eh, what’s up?” But the way it’s mimicked in American culture might only be true in some parts of Canada.
As for “aboot” which is the way many believe Canadians pronounce “about,” it, again, can be true of some, especially in northern and rural areas of Canadian. But most Canadians don’t pronounce the “oo” sound so prominently as you think. It’s far more subtle, and more like “aboat” then the more American “abowt.”
5 Everyone Loves Hockey
Canada’s national sport is hockey in the winter, and lacrosse in the summer. And while many Canadians are fierce supporters of their hometown hockey teams, not every Canadian loves, follows, or even watches hockey. In fact, some Canadians are into basketball, football, soccer, and other popular sports instead.
So when you meet a Canadian and want to talk sports, try asking them what sports they watch first, or if they even watch hockey, before assuming they must.
4 Everyone Knows One Another
Everyone hears the stat that Canada’s population is actually less than the population of California, just one state in the U.S. So they automatically assume Canada is a really small country that sits on the tip of America. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In size, Canada is 9,984,670 square kilometers compared to just 403,882 square kilometers in California; and it’s roughly the same size as the U.S., which is about 9,833,517 square kilometers (though America has 291 million more people).
So sure, Canada doesn’t have as big a population, but it’s just as big a country. So bottom line: no, that guy you just met from Canada probably doesn’t know Bob from Newfoundland or Mike from Halifax.
3 The Only Police Are Mounties
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is the federal and national police service in Canada that covers provincial policing in eight of the 10 provinces (minus Ontario and Quebec) and local policing in the three territories. But they don’t all wear those red uniforms and wide-brimmed hats. Nor do they all ride horses.
In Ontario, they have the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and in Quebec, the Surete de Quebec, both of which wear standard police uniforms. The RCMP is sort of the equivalent of the FBI in the U.S. They don’t all wear suits and ties, but some of them do.
2 The Capital Is Toronto
Since Toronto is the most well-known city in Canada, many wrongfully believe that it is the nation’s capital. But prepare to have your mind blown: it isn’t. The capital is actually Ottawa, which is more than 200 miles east of Toronto, standing on the south bank of the Ottawa River.
With a population of just over a million, Ottawa, Ontario is the fourth-largest city in Canada. And it’s where Parliament Hill, the Canadian equivalent to the White House, resides, along with other tourist attraction like the National War Memoriam and the National Gallery of Canada.
1 All Canadians Speak French
Canada is a bilingual nation that requires all of our goods to be labeled and offered in both English and French. But not every Canadian actually speaks French. Most French-speaking Canadians are located in the province of Quebec, where French is the official language, and in provinces close by like New Brunswick. There are also French-speaking communities in provinces like Manitoba and Ontario.
But for most of Canada, the dominant language is English. So you don’t need to worry about being able to speak French unless you plan to travel deep into the heart of Quebec. Even in Montreal, a heavy tourist area of Quebec, most people can speak English as well.